Friday, 19 December 2014

Theatre Wrap Up 2014, Dec 11, 2014

By Kate Herbert
This article also published in Herald Sun online on Thur 17 Dec 2014 and in print later (maybe Dec 19). KH

Some years I’m overwhelmed by the array of astounding and virtuosic, 5-star productions staged in Melbourne but, in 2014, I recall only one that ticks all the excellence boxes. 

That musical and theatrical triumph is the revitalised production of Les Miserables with its operatic grandeur, epic story and Claude-Michel Shönberg’s soaring, orchestral music.

It features assured direction (Laurence Connor, James Powell), inventive vision and design, swelling choruses, heart wrenching solos and evocative lyrics performed by a consummate Australian cast. 

Close behind on 4 and a half stars is Once, a jewel of a musical that makes you want to go home and hug your loved ones. I saw Once twice!

Its beguiling story, music and characters create an uplifting, enchanting and achingly melancholic theatrical experience.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Grease, Dec 10, 2014 ****

Grease, Music, Lyrics & Book by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
Regent Theatre, from Dec 10, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ****

Review also online at Herald Sun today, Fri Dec 11, 2014 and in print in Sunday Herald Sun on Sun, Dec 13, 2014. KH
 Haul out the Brylcreem and your ol’ 45s then rev up the Chevy because the rockers and greasers, bobbysoxers and cheerleaders are back in Grease Is The Word.

David Gilmore’s peppy production has matured in the year since we last saw it and the highlights of are still Arlene Phillips’ musical staging and choreography and the searingly hot band under musical director Peter Casey.

Grease is a teen love story set in the fictitious, Rydell High School in 1955 in USA when teenagers were asserting their independence with rock and roll and permissive behaviour.

Gretel Scarlett plays shy, chaste Australian newcomer, Sandy, who falls hopelessly in love with high school Lothario and ‘greaser’, Danny, played by Rob Mills.

Mills and Scarlett lead the chorus of T-Birds (boys) and Pink Ladies (girls) in a vivacious version of Summer Nights and their finale of You’re The One That I Want is raunchy and vibrant.

Scarlett’s versatile voice is both sweet and bold in the romantic ballad, Hopelessly Devoted To You, while Mills’ bright vocal tones are well suited to his solo, Sandy.

The chorus numbers, Grease Is The Word and Shakin’ At the High School Hop, are effervescent and vivid with tight vocal arrangements while Hand Jive Hop has the added delight of 70’s pop star, John Paul Young, as Johnny Casino.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Dreams From The Second Floor, NICA, Nov 2014

National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA)
From Nov 27, 2014
Stars: ****

Dreams From The Second Floor was a really entertaining and novel show performed by final year students at NICA with imaginative and deft direction by visiting director, Firenza Guidi.

Friday, 21 November 2014

La Cage Aux Folles, Nov 22, 2014 ***

Book by Harvey Fierstein & Lyrics & Music by Jerry Herman; based on play by Jean Poiret 
By The Production Company
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, Nov 21 to Dec 7, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published online in Herald Sun on Mon Nov 24, 2014 then in print thereafter. KH

  Todd McKenney & Les Cagelles

La Cage Aux Folles, with its bevy of pert transvestites, seems to be terminally titillating to an audience that has probably never rubbed up against a drag queen – so to speak.

TV dance show judge and hoofer, Todd McKenney, relishes the opportunity to mince, prance and dazzle in glittering gowns and fabulous wigs when playing flamboyant, over-sensitive Albin.

Simon Burke is suitably elegant and decorative as Georges, Albin’s straight-acting gay, long-term partner and owner of renowned St. Tropez cabaret, La Cage Aux Folles, where Albin stars nightly as the celebrated drag queen, ZaZa.

Georges and Albin’s vivid but stable world totters when Georges’ son, Jean-Michel (Robert Tripolino), announces that he is bringing the Dindons (Gary Sweet, Marg Downey), the arch-conservative parents of his fiancée (Emily Milledge) to meet his own “parents”.

La Cage is playful, vivacious, silly and entertaining and the musical numbers are the most successful components of this production directed by Dean Bryant with musical direction by Matthew Frank and choreography by Andrew Hallsworth.

Friday, 14 November 2014

The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland, Nov 12, 2014

By Ridiculusmus
Arts House, Meat Market, North Melbourne
12 to 16 November 2014
I am not reviewing this for Herald Sun. I am hoping to see it but am not sure yet. I love Ridiculusmus. Wonder if they can bring it back for a longer season? KH

Jon Haynes, Ben Grant, David Woods and Nicola Gunn

From Media Release
" The first of a trilogy of work to be developed over the next five years focusing on mental health, The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland immerses the audience in an ambitious and innovative split staging arrangement where the action and dialogue from two different sequences of scenes are simultaneously performed to two different groups of audience in the same space.

Pennsylvania Avenue, Nov 13, 2014 ***1/2

By Joanna Murray-Smith, by Melbourne Theatre Company 
Southbank Theatre, The Sumner, Nov 13 to Dec 20, 2014 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: ***1/2
 Full review also in Herald Sun online today, Fri Nov 14. It will be in print on Sun Nov 16, 2014. KH
 Bernadette Robinson

Bernadette Robinson is renowned for her versatility and charisma as a singer but, in Pennsylvania Avenue, she reveals that she is also a fine character actor.

Robinson plays Harper Clemence, a woman from Thunderbolt Georgia who, over 40 years, worked her way up from invisible assistant to Social Secretary for the East Wing of the White House where she planned entertainment for First Ladies and Presidents of the USA.

Pennsylvania Avenue is a solo play with songs, written by Joanna Murray-Smith, deftly directed by Simon Phillips with impressive musical direction by Ian McDonald and an accomplished band.

Harper is retiring after her decades of dedication and, surrounded by portraits of past presidents in the famed Blue Room, she packs her last box of memories while she reminisces about her life in the White House.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Hans Christian: You Must Be An Angel, Nov 13, 2014 ****

By Teatret Gruppe (Denmark)
Arts Centre Melbourne, Nov 12 to 16, 2014 
Reviewer: Kate Herbrt 
Stars: ****
I am not reviewing this for Herald Sun. Please forgive the speed at which I've written this review. I wanted to get it down before I lost the magic. KH 
I’ve never seen a children’s show quite like Hans Christian: You Must Be An Angel – and I’ve seen a heck of a lot of kids’ theatre. 

Danish company, Teatret Gruppe, creates a world of wonder and magic and illusion created by two waiters who serve at a celebratory dinner at an enormous table at which sit Hans Christian Andersen and a parade of characters from his fairytales.

The two charming actors (Bodil Alling and Peter Seligmann) are supported by technicians (Søren la Cour, Søren Søndberg, Lars K. Olesen), two of whom are secreted under the table from where they control the technical magic that we witness above.

We don’t see the characters, but each table setting has an empty chair and place setting, cutlery, glasses and items that signify a specific character from a beloved fairytale.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Dreamers, REVIEW, Nov 8, 2014 ***

By Daniel Keene
fortyfivedownstairs, until Nov 30, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Nov 8
Review also published in Herald Sun on Monday Nov 10, 2014.
Please note my reviews of early Keene/Taylor seasons and other Keene plays are also on this blog. See list of links below review. KH
Yomal Rajasinghe, Helen Morse and Paul English; pic Jeff Busby

It is over a decade since the last Daniel Keene and Ariette Taylor theatrical collaboration so Dreamers, their new production, was awaited with eager anticipation.

Dreamers has some of the hallmarks of those much-loved, early Keene/Taylor Theatre Project works: pressing, contemporary social issues, championing of underdogs and outsiders, an impeccable cast, unexpected choreography and sparse design (Adrienne Chisholm).

Anne (Helen Morse), a lonely widow struggling to make a living from sewing piecework, begins an unexpected love affair with Majid (Yomal Rajasinghe), an equally isolated but much younger man who is a recent immigrant.

Because Majid is not only young but also dark-skinned, their relationship initially raises eyebrows and silent disapproval, but this simmering intolerance and antagonism soon escalates into unbridled racism and abuse.

Their neighbours – the banal and the bigoted – target difference and disadvantage, creating a non-existent enemy that these hypocrites can blame for their own malaise and sense of dispossession.

Friday, 7 November 2014

I'll Eat You Last REVIEW, Nov 6, 2014

I’ll Eat You Last, by John Logan, by Melbourne Theatre Company

Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, opens Nov 6 to Dec 20, 204

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: 3 &1/2
This review is not for Herald Sun. KH

Miriam Margolyes manages to be both charismatic and repulsive in her portrayal of colourful Hollywood agent, Sue Mengers.

Mengers was not only a successful agent, but also a rapacious consumer of drugs and alcohol, a venomous gossip and an avid follower of the careers of "Twinklies", as she calls movie stars.

Lounging on her sofa like a dangerous feline awaiting its prey, Margolyes teases and charms the audience, treating us as plebian guests in Mengers’ opulent living room in the hiatus before her real and famous dinner guests arrive.

In this solo shows directed by the talented Dean Bryant, Mengers spins tall tale and true of her childhood as a German-Jewish immigrant in New York, her ambitious and relentless ascent from admin assistant to sought-after agent.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Passion, Sondheim, REVIEW, Nov 5, 2014 ***

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim & Book by James Lapine
Based on film, Passione D’Amore by Ettore Scola
By Life Like Company
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, Nov 5 to 8, 2014

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ***
Full review also published online in Herald Sun  today, Nov 6. It will also run in print tomorrow, Nov 7, 2014. KH
Kane Alexander & Silvie Paladino. Pic by Ben Fon

Stephen Sondheim’s score for Passion is luscious and emotive, capturing the essence of this boldly dramatic story of clandestine affairs and unrequited love.

The musical opens with Georgio (Kane Alexander), a young soldier, and his beautiful, married lover, Clara (Silvie Paladino), entwined in each other’s arms in a rumpled bed and singing of their unbounded happiness and secret love.

When Georgio is transferred from Milan to a remote, provincial military base, the two keep their love alight with intimate letters.

But Georgio is unprepared for the unwanted, relentless attentions of Fosca (Theresa Borg), the ailing, lovelorn cousin of Colonel Ricci (Mark Dickinson).

Sondheim and James Lapine’s Tony Award winning musical is set in Milan in 1863 and based on Ettore Scola’s film, Passione D’Amore.

The story is operatic in style with heightened characters, and Sondheim embodies this dramatic quality in his expressive lyrics, melodies and often surprising harmonies.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Calpurnia Descending, Nov 14, 2014

Sisters Grimm, Malthouse Theatre
Nov 14 to 30, 2014
With Paul Capsis & Ash Flanders
From Media Release:
"Calpurnia Descending sees one of the country’s most fabulous divas, Paul Capsis, in the role of a lifetime. Enter Beverly Dumont. Once a major star alongside Bette Davis and Elizabeth Taylor – this dame could dazzle. But those days are through. This has-been is now a recluse, hooked on hooch and limping toward obscurity as the curtain falls for good. When from the wings comes a not-so-naive ingénue by the name of Violet St Clair, with cheekbones that could cut glass and a body made for sin.
Together they collude on a Broadway hit to resurrect Dumont’s career, but both women are soon caught in a world of paranoia, scandal and remorseless ambition."

Pennsylvania Avenue, opens Nov 13, 2104

Written by Joanna Murray-Smith, Melbourne Theatre Company
Sumner, Souhbank Theatre, Nov 13 to  20, 2014

I will review this opening on Nov 13. Looking forward to another Bernadette Robinson show. KH
Cast: Bernadette Robinson

Director Simon Phillips
Musical Director Ian McDonald
Set & Costume Designer Shaun Gurton
Lighting Designer Nick Schlieper
Associate Lighting Designer Chris Twyman
Assistant Director John Kachoyan

I'll Eat You Last, Nov 6, 2014

By John Logan
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, Nov 6 to Dec 20, 2014

I will not be reviewing this show for Herald Sun but will write about it for the blog. KH

In this one-woman show directed by Dean Bryant, Miriam Margolyes plays Sue Mengers, a Hollywood agent.

Dreamers, Nov 8, 2014

By Daniel Keene; directed by Ariette Taylor
45downstairs, Sat Nov 8 to 30, 2014

I am reviewing this play on Nov 8. If you remember the Keene/Taylor Project, I suggest this would be a good show to see. 

Have a look  at this cast. It has at least four of my favourite actors in it. Now, you can guess who they are.

Helen Morse

Paul English
Natasha Herbert
Nicholas Bell
Marco Chiappi
Jonathan Taylor
Brigid Gallagher
Yomal Rajasinghe
Yomal Rajasinghe &  Helen Morse

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Hell, Oct 30-Nov 9, 2014

Metanoia Theatre
2 plays: 
No Exit by Jean Paul Sartre;
Bobby Gould in Hell by David Mamet
Brunswick Mechanics' Institute, Oct 30 to Nov 9, 2014

I am not seeing or reviewing this show. (I didn't receive any info about it at all.) KH

No Exit directed by Greg Ulfan
Bobby Gould in Hell directed by Gorkan Acaroglu

Shakespeare & The Dark Lady of the Sonnets, Oct 29- Nov 9.2014

By Enzo Condello
Richmond Theatrette
I am not seeing or reviewing this show. KH.

A play in verse that identifies the Dark Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets as Emilia Bassano.
Arta Mucaj as Bassano

Friday, 31 October 2014

The Pavilion, Oct 31, 2014

By Craig Wright, by Boutique Theatre
Abbotsford Convent, Oct 31 to Nov 6, 2014 
I am not reviewing this show. Excerpt from Media Release below. KH

Cast: Tim Constantine, Katherine Innes and Claire Pearson.

Director: Byron Bache
Producer: Emma Jane Caldwell, co-founder of Boutique Theatre

From Media Release:
 "A bittersweet comedy of lost love and what might have been, Peter returns to his hometown of Pine City, Minnesota and his twenty-year high school reunion with dreams of winning back Kari, the girl he left behind at seventeen after an unexpected pregnancy. Standing in his way is the wedding ring on Kari’s finger, the fact that he still hasn’t grown up, and a narrator hell-bent on telling Peter and Kari’s story her own way. As the night progresses, both Peter and Kari are forced to face the consequences of choices made long ago and face life with newfound strength and bittersweet resolve.

"Hailed by critics as Thornton Wilder’s Our Town for our time, The Pavilion is by turns poetic and comic, romantic and philosophical. Punctuated with hilarious dialogue dredged from the universal experience of high school angst, the characters also find themselves deeply entrenched in the melancholy of “what might have been.”

"American playwright Craig Wright is an Emmy-nominated television writer, known especially for his work on Six Feet Under, Lost and cult hit Dirty Sexy Money."

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Dreams from the Second Floor, Nov 26 to Dec 6, 2014

NICA Circus Studio, Green St Prahran; Nov 26 to Dec 6, 2014
Directed by Firenza Guidi

From NICA Media Release:
"Internationally renowned director Firenza Guidi, from NoFit State Circus in Wales, is creating a dynamic live circus experience featuring NICA’s graduating artists. This site-specific performance, titled Dreams from the Second Floor, opens on 26 November and runs until 6 December, at the custom built National Circus Centre in Prahran.

"Audiences can expect a unique encounter. The creative process and technical components will be on display in this site-specific work which engages with the NICA National Circus Centre in an innovative way. There is no back stage - this is a performance which will be fabricated in front of the eyes of the audience!

"Raw, raucous and infectious, Dreams from the Second Floor will explore different types of dreams from those which come to us at night, sometimes so vivid that we can smell and taste and touch, to those which we carry with us through our waking reality. Witness performers weave their way through their own dreams - where things are uncharted and the world is upside down.

"Twenty one multi-talented artists will present high level circus skills on a range of apparatus including: Aerial Ring, Aerial Straps, Contortion, Rope, German Wheel, Hand Balancing, Hula Hoops, Roue Cyr, Dance Trapeze, Tightwire and Tumbling." Oct 30, 2014

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Passion, Nov 5-8, 2014

By Stephen Sondheim & James Lapine
By Life Like Company
Playhouse, Arts Centre, Melbourne; Nov 5 to 8, 2014
I will review this on Nov 5. KH
 Kane Alexander & Silvie Paladino Pic by Ben Fon

Creative Team:
Neil Gooding: Director
Guy Simpson: Musical Direction

Cast includes:
Kane Alexander (Urinetown, Hair, Les Miserables) as Giorgio; 
Silvie Paladino (Chess, Miss Saigon, Les Miserables) in the role of Clara; 
Theresa Borg (Les Miserables, Cats, The Phantom of the Opera) as Fosca
John O’May (The Last Confession, The Phantom of the Opera, A Little Night Music) as Doctor Tambourri.
Troy Sussman
Glaston Toft
Mark Dickinson
Jolyon James
Todd Strike

Silvie Paladino as Clara, Kane Alexander as Georgio, Theresa Borg as Fosca -Photo Matt Deller

From Media Release
Life Like Company is proud to announce a new production of Stephen Sondheim
and James Lapine’s widely acclaimed, Tony Award winning musical PASSION,
playing four nights only at The Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne from 5-8
November, 2014.
The complex landscape of the human heart is the subject of PASSION, a haunting,
intensely emotional musical by the uncompromising creators of Into The Woods and
Sunday In The Park With George.
The original Broadway production of PASSION received 4 TONY Awards including
Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Potted Potter, Oct 28, 2014 REVIEW ****

Potted Potter: The Unauthorised Harry Experience, by Daniel Clarkson & Jefferson Turner 
Playhouse, Arts Centre, Melbourne; Oct 28 to Nov 2, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 28
Stars: **** 
Full review also published in Herald Sun online on Wed Oct 29, 2014 and later in print. KH
Benjamin Stratton and James Percy

Potted Potter is a goofy, impudent parody of all seven Harry Potter books performed in 70 minutes that would make even J.K. Rowling laugh.

The two engaging actors, cheeky Benjamin (Ben) Stratton and geeky James Percy, portray all of Rowling’s characters; well, about 20 of the main ones, anyway.

This family show has no flashy set or lighting, no astounding animatronics, fancy costumes or huge cast of famous actors because Ben spent the entire show budget on a spectacular dragon for book four.

Potted Potter, originally devised and performed by Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner and directed by Richard Hurst, mercilessly parodies the story, characters, magic and the sheer length of the series.

Because Ben hasn’t read the books, most of the gags arise from his wildly inaccurate characterisations: Ron Weasley is a rap-talking, Jamaican kid in an orange clown wig, Voldemort wears devil’s horns, Snape has a dodgy French accent, Hagrid wears a Motown afro, and Hermione sports plaits and a crusty baritone.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Trouble With Harry, Oct 23, 2014 ***

By Lachlan Philpott; MKA 
Northcote Town Hall,  Oct 17 to Nov 9, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 23, 2014
This review will not be for the Herald Sun. I've written only a short review here and have not necessarily covered all elements. KH
 Maude Davey

The Trouble With Harry is a theatrical representation of the startling story of a real woman who passed as a man in early 20th century Sydney and was convicted of murder in 1920.

Lachlan Philpott’s necessarily makes assumptions about the life and interactions of Eugenia Falleni, an Italian immigrant who dressed and lived as a man called Harry Crawford (Maude Davey).

The script balances the lyrical language of the narrators (Dion Mills, Emma Palmer) with the more realistic dialogue between Harry and his wife, Annie Birkett (Caroline Lee), his daughter, Josephine (Elizabeth Nabben) and Annie’s son (Daniel Last).